Surprised by Sadness


It’s spring. The sun is out for the first time in several days and the breeze is balmy, soft with fragrance, floating through the house.

I’m with my sweet grandson, who is snuggled on my lap, his cheeks full of the frozen waffle he’s using to ease his sore gums. He grins at me, and those dimples appear in his rosy cheeks.

There’s wonderful music on, an old playlist of my favorites.

So what’s with the tears that won’t stop leaking from my eyes?

I kiss Max’s head, then rest my cheek against his. He chortles at me, and pokes one chubby hand into my hair, where drool and waffle mingle as he shares his treasure.

I can’t stop crying.

I’ve been filled up with a pool of sadness that seems to have sprouted from nowhere.

In an effort to stop the flow, I sing along with the music. It’s the Birds of Chicago, an Americana/Roots group that we’ve been following with devotion for the past six years. We’ve been lucky enough to have gotten up close and personal with the musicians, and have shared several conversation and some hugs.

I love the Birds. Why am I crying?

Maybe part of my heavy heartedness is because the band is changing. Like many other artists before them, they’ve come to a point in their creativity where their focus has shifted. The brilliant lead singer is working on her solo career.

And that’s wonderful! I’ll buy all of her music, and follow her as she tours. I’m excited to see what she creates.

So why am I crying?

I think it’s because I didn’t get to say “goodbye”, as silly as that sounds. After seeing the band some 15 times, I wish I’d known that the last show I saw would be the end of my experience with them. I wish I’d celebrated all that they accomplished. I wish I had known what I was losing. I wish I had had a chance to cry then.

It’s a theme that echoes for me, this lack of a goodbye. My teaching career ended very suddenly, which meant that I didn’t get to honor and celebrate each of the “lasts” in my final year. I didn’t realize that the trip to Sturbridge Village would be my last field trip, or that the Halloween parade would be my last. I didn’t appreciate the poignance of my class’s last “pajama day” or the last laugh of that final April Fools Day.

We need to say our goodbyes to the parts of our lives that move on and change. We need to grieve for the old in order to embrace the new.

As I sniffled and sang along with the Birds of Chicago, I thought about all that the past year has taken from us.

The first day of kindergarten didn’t happen for my granddaughter. My son didn’t have the wedding he’d been planning. The end of a relationship meant the loss of a woman I’d come to love as one of our own family.

Restaurants closed. Music venues disappeared.

None of it came with a realization that it was happening, and none of it happened in a way that allowed for the emotional processing that usually goes with such change.

Covid took away our sense of security, too, and our misguided belief that we could control our own safety. It took away the closeness of many relationships; it took away the physical contact that, for me, has always been a part of every friendship.

We had the life before this pandemic. Now we have the life after it. I’m not sure that the old life was in every way the better life.

I just know that I wish I’d had a chance to say goodbye to it before it disappeared into history.

5 thoughts on “Surprised by Sadness

  1. So many goodbyes in a life time. I am not good at letting go, so even in the best of circumstances I usually have regrets. I suspect that maybe that is not unusual. I almost cried with you.

    Like

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